Youths' Economic and Regulatory Traits in Water Resources Management as a Precursor for Good Water Governance

Youths' Economic and Regulatory Traits in Water Resources Management as a Precursor for Good Water Governance

Kevin Gatt (University of Malta, Malta)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3427-3.ch017
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Good water governance needs to ensure, amongst others, the sustainability of water resources. Sustainability needs to be secured by optimising economic and social goals whilst safeguarding the rights of future generations. In developing a water governance framework it is imperative to understand the perceptions of society in order to determine which portions of the framework are acceptable and those which will require more effort to overcome current perceptions. In safeguarding the resource for its enjoyment by future generations it is worth understanding, even at this stage, youth perceptions in the light that they will be the leaders of tomorrow and the core of society. To this effect a national survey was undertaken and 13 statements demonstrate statistical significance amongst youths. These are analysed with a view towards better understanding the perception of youths towards the economic aspect of water.
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Water management and water scarcity can take different meanings in different contexts with major variations in focus such as ensuring access to safe water in developing countries to abstracting water only within sustainable levels in industrialised nations. The Maltese Islands are a small group of islands having an overall area of 316km2 and a population density of 1309 persons/km2.

Today, groundwater resources which once served our ancestors, are no longer sufficient to support Malta’s resident and visiting population. Of the total water produced, 43.85% (NSO, 2012) is today derived from groundwater, a proportion which has been on the decline throughout the past years. The rest is provided by more energy intensive desalination technology. Moreover, from information given in the Maltese Parliament in 2009, the annual sustainable yield from groundwater is estimated at 23 million cubic metres and which is currently being exceeded by 10 million cubic metres annually. From an environmental perspective, groundwater can be considered to be the only source of renewable water on the Maltese islands. Statistics show that for the year 2008, the groundwater exploitation rate stood at 110.93 (NSO, 2010), clearly demonstrating the stress on groundwater resources. This shows that abstraction is exceeding recharge by around 11%.

Water governance is multifaceted in that it delves deeper into the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. The Gross National Income per capita for Malta in 2010 stood at €13,916 (NSO 048/2011, 2011) which is significantly lower than the EU27 average ranking Malta in 19th place. Malta’s standing in terms of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion is below the EU27 average and 11th in rank with 20.6% of the total population. Unemployment between October – December 2011 stood at 6.6% whilst the inactive component of the population (15 years and over) stood at 49.6% of all persons aged 15 years and over (NSO 059/2012, 2012). It is also interesting to note that the largest share of unemployed persons falls within the 15-24 age group. The average annual gross salary for employees stood at €15,013 (NSO 059/2012, 2012) whilst the annual take-home pay for 2012 of a full-time employee on minimum wage amounted to € 7,912 (Caritas, 2012).

From the aforementioned economic, social and environmental indicators it is evident that the sustainability of water resources is at risk and that a delicate balance exists between measures aimed at increasing sustainability and economic and social welfare. Malta’s Water Resources Review (FAO, 2006) states in unequivocal terms that Malta’s core challenge is that related to water governance and that tough decisions are required to address this situation. The report claims that the challenge that Malta faces is one where it has to meet the priority demands for water whilst maintaining the viability of aquifer systems. Perhaps water governance systems need to go a step further by understanding stakeholder perceptions in order to measure up to these, and where appropriate correct them, when developing policies and systems that are aimed at sustainable water management.

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